In 2006 I had the opportunity to manage the Eastern Gauteng Under 21 Hockey Side (This was before my move to Southern Gauteng Hockey). At the National Interprovincial Tournament we came up against our Northern Gauteng neighbours. They had 5 short corners, scoring all 5 of them through a relative unknown Justin Reid-Ross. The drag flick extraordinaire has since gone on to represent his country 59 times (correct before any warm up games) and competed at 2 Commonwealth games as well as the World Cup.
He now plies his trade in the Dutch Hoofdklasse with Pinoke alongside national team mate Lloyd Madsen. And we will be banking on his experience and class as the Champions Challenge gets under way on Saturday!
All Things Jabu (ATJ): Hi Justin thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How are things going in the build up to the Champions Challenge?
Justin Reid-Ross (JRR): Things are going very well thanks, we’ve had 8 training sessions and a couple of warm-up games already and I think the vibe in the group is very strong.
ATJ: What are the teamâ€™s goals for the tournament ahead?
JRR: Itâ€™s a simple situation really, according to the qualifying criteria we’ve been given, we have to make the final of the Champs Challenge for the team to be sent to London next year for the Olympic Games. With that said, we aren’t only aiming to make the final, we’re playing for gold.
ATJ: And you can bank on the local support for that! All Things Jabu recently was involved in a provincial Southern Gauteng hockey side and a lot of the players in the team list you as their hero. How does that make you feel?
JRR: Itâ€™s a great feeling, and very humbling. With hockey being such a small sport in SA its great to know that there are still young players looking up to guys in the National team and not only the international stars.Â
ATJ: And what advice would you give these youngsters in their quest to emulate you and wear the green and gold?
JRR: There really is no substitute for hard work and committment to your goals. I realised quite young that I wanted to play hockey at the highest level and I made a lot of sacrifices to make sure that happened.
ATJ: Who was your hockey role model growing up?
JRR: I had a few but my dad was my biggest motivation, having played for SA for 10 years. On the international stage, former Dutch international Timme Hoyng was the player I most wanted to emulate.
ATJ: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
JRR: Nothing can beat the feeling of making my debut in 2006 and scoring my first goal in it.
ATJ: Having played in the Commonwealth games and the World Cup, which of these stood out for you as the best to play in?
JRR: The World Cup is a great tournament to play against the best hockey countries, but the Commonwealth Games are amazing in terms of the village, the crowds and the experience.
ATJ: Who is the toughest opposition you have faced in your hockey career?
JRR: Playing against Australia is always a huge game, not only because they’re the best team in world hockey, but also due the the competitive natures of our countries across most sports codes.
ATJ: You are now plying your trade in Holland, how does the quality of the hockey there compare to the local game?
JRR: Itâ€™s a huge step up. Playing in the hoofdklasse is the closest thing you can get to playing international hockey on a weekly basis.
ATJ: You have also played in Belgium and Australia. Including Holland, which of these have been the most competitive?
JRR: Definitely Holland. It has the highest number of international players in any of the world leagues.
ATJ: South African Hockey is currently sitting in 13th place in the World and the chasm between us and the rest doesnâ€™t seem to close. What do you think South Africa can do to close the gap to our International compatriots?
JRR: We really need to find major sponsors to improve the amount of time we spend together as a national team. We also have to increase the number of internationals we play in the year. Itâ€™s difficult to compete at the highest level without the right preparation.
ATJ: What was your most memorable goal for South Africa?
JRR: The one I scored on debut was a huge one for me, but I think the Golden Goal I scored against Pakistan at last year’s Comm Games was the most memorable.
ATJ: What other sports are you into?
JRR: I enjoy playing golf in my spare time, as well as squash every now and then.
ATJ: And who do you support?
JRR: On the football front, I’ve supported Man United since I was 5!
ATJ: Thank you very much Justin! Good luck for the Champions Challenge!
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